In this eighth outing for Wimpy Kid Greg Heffley, he copes with the aftereffects of having unwittingly matched up best friend Rowley with Abigail in his previous outing (The Third Wheel, 2012).
Readers who have experienced the ebbs and flows of middle school friendships might be inclined to feel sorry for Greg, except that all his reasons for his new unhappiness are so characteristically selfish. With Rowley gaga over Abigail, Greg now has to walk to school alone, losing his dog-poop scout and pack horse, for instance. Readers will have to squint between the lines for evidence of real emotion. As always, Kinney gets in a dig or two at the idiocies of modern education, snarking at ball-game bans in the name of safety and lame efforts to reduce bullying. Also as always, the plot meanders, taking Greg and readers from the middle school ecosystem to Easter at Gramma’s for a look at extended-family anthropology before tackling science-fair stress. Greg’s reliance on a Magic 8 Ball for all decision-making is good for some yuks, as is his discovery of a secret shelf of parenting books in the back of his mom’s closet: Tellingly, amid such titles as Making Them Love Reading, Taming Your Defiant Child and Parenting Picky Eaters is Raising Decent Human Beings.
By the end of the book, Greg may have taken a microscopic step or two toward becoming a decent human being, but as usual, it’s mostly despite his best efforts. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)